Lionel Messi has been banned from Argentina’s next four World Cup qualifiers, starting with Tuesday’s game in Bolivia. Messi was banned for “having directed insulting words at an assistant referee” during a home qualifier against Chile on Thursday, FIFA said hours before kickoff in La Paz. “This decision is in line with the FIFA Disciplinary Committee’s previous rulings in similar cases,” the world soccer body said. Messi and the Argentine soccer federation can appeal against the ban to FIFA. Messi was also fined 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,160). FIFA intervened when the incident was not initially reported by the Brazilian referee after Argentina’s 1-0 win at Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires.
Tottenham midfielder Erik Lamela has been ruled out for the rest of the season because of a hip injury. The 25-year-old Argentina international has not played for Spurs since October because of the problem and will undergo surgery on Saturday. Tottenham said Lamela had “achieved a good level of function” but was not at a stage to make a return to training, leading to the decision to operate. “I tried everything to recover but my hip is still not 100%,” Lamela tweeted. “I can’t compete at the level I want to. I’ll face this challenge with a positive attitude and can’t wait to get back with the team and be stronger.” Lamela had made 14 appearances this season for Spurs before the injury. He joined Tottenham from Roma in 2013 and enjoyed a superb season last term, scoring 13 goals. Spurs are second in the Premier League, 10 points behind leaders Chelsea, who they also play in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Football fans have been questioning the resemblance of a statue of Cristiano Ronaldo unveiled on the Portuguese island of Madeira. Many on social media say the work looks more like former Republic of Ireland captain Niall Quinn than Ronaldo. The statue was revealed at a ceremony to name the island’s airport after him. Portugal’s president and the prime minister flew to the island to unveil the tribute to the player outside the terminal entrance. President Rebelo de Sousa said Ronaldo “projects Madeira and Portugal across the world far more than anybody else”. The 32-year-old is a local hero in Madeira, where he is seen as a rags-to-riches success. He already has a museum about him in his hometown of Funchal. The player later said on Twitter: “Happy and honored to have my name given to the Madeira airport!”
Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi wants Arsene Wenger to remain as manager and says criticism of the Frenchman is “unfair”. Wenger, 67, has been criticised by some fans after Arsenal slipped to sixth in the Premier League following four defeats in their past five games. A 10-2 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League added to the pressure and Wenger says he will make a decision on his future “very soon”. “He’s a great man in my opinion,” said Iwobi, 20. “I’d like him to stay.”